Friday, 18 May 2018

Theories of Surplus Value, Part II, Chapter 15 - Part 51

4. Relative Surplus-Value. [The Analysis of Relative Wages Is One of Ricardo’s Scientific Achievements] 

“This is in fact the only form of surplus-value which Ricardo analyses under the name of profit. [According to him:]” (p 417) 

The “according to him” refers to the fact that, in the following paragraphs, the arguments put forward are those of Ricardo, not of Marx. Marx sets it out in this way so as to lay out Ricardo's theory clearly. But, to distinguish Ricardo's theory from that of Marx, I will comment on Ricardo's argument, in the course of setting it out. 

Ricardo argues that the value of a commodity is determined by the labour-time required for its production, and contained in it, and so is a definite quantity. This is what distinguishes a labour theory of value, as a theory of objective value, from a theory of subjective value, which determines values on the basis of subjective preferences of buyers and sellers. There are two distinctions between Marx's labour theory of value, and that set out by Ricardo, here, which follows on from Smith's labour theory of value. Firstly, the value of a commodity is not determined by the labour “embodied” or contained in it, as Ricardo and Smith present the matter. The actual labour “embodied” in any product or commodity is concrete labour. In other words, it is the labour of a spinner that is embodied in yarn, whereas it is abstract labour that is the essence of value. But, even in terms of this abstract labour, the labour actually expended on the production of any individual commodity unit, or batch, only determines the individual value of that unit or batch. When Marx refers to value, he does not mean this individual value, but social value, or market value. That is the average socially necessary labour-time currently required to reproduce this class of product. 

And, this last point is the other clear distinction, which is that it is not the labour embodied in, or previously expended on, i.e. the historic cost, for the production of a commodity that determines its value, but the labour currently required for its reproduction. That is its current reproduction cost, the proportion of social labour-time required to replace those commodities being currently consumed, either personally or productively. 

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